Frontline's "The Old Man and the Storm" (Tuesday, 9 p.m., PBS) is about Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans and the government's bungling in the reconstruction. It focuses on one man, Herbert Gettridge, who was determined to rebuild his house in the lower Ninth Ward no matter what. Gettridge is a testament to the indomitable human spirit in the face of impossible odds - and by "impossible odds," of course, I refer to the Bush administration.
Gettridge camps out in his shattered house without gas, electricity or water. He hammers it all back together so that his ailing wife can return from Madison, where she's staying with their daughter. He waits for reconstruction money that the government promised, only to get caught up in red tape. The Department of Housing and Urban Development changes the rules in midstream; FEMA underestimates the extent of the damage; and the Bush White House blocks federal appropriations to the city's hobbled utility, proclaiming that (are you sitting down?) it opposes bailing out private corporations.
"This is a cruel world, in a way, some of the people that live in it," Gettridge says with characteristic understatement.
Then it's back to hammering.
Game Show in My Head
Saturday, 7 pm (CBS)
Ashton Kutcher is the executive producer of this reality series, which asks contestants to do embarrassing things in public in exchange for money.
Wait a minute - doing embarrassing things in front of strangers is essentially the premise of every reality show. Does Kutcher really think that, at this point, degradation is a welcome novelty?
Superstars of Dance
Sunday, 8 pm (NBC)
NBC's new series is a head-to-head competition between masters of dance genres from Australia, Ireland, India, China, Russia and South Africa. Producer Nigel Lythgoe, of American Idol fame, is practically hyperventilating from excitement. "This is the most challenging and exhilarating project I've ever done!" he pants. "Nothing of this magnitude has ever been attempted before on television! The sheer mosaic of styles and energy is going to be nothing short of awe-inspiring!"
That's right - Superstars of Dance is so thrilling as to be practically dangerous. Be sure you take your heart pills, America, lest you suffer instant cardiac arrest when the Australian dancer lurches into his homeland's famed "Melbourne Shuffle."
Monday, 9 pm (ABC)
It's yet another reality series that chooses the hottest of the hotties. Six gorgeous women and four hunky men are judged by Cheryl Tiegs and Vanessa Minnillo, who know whereof they speak.
But wait - there's a twist. The judges are looking not only for beautiful features, but also for inner beauty. They put the contestants through a series of challenges that test their moral fiber. The one with the most developed morality - along with the most developed abs and glutes - wins the cash prize.
Am I the only one who thinks that the contestants with moral fiber are ever so slightly less hot?
Monday, 9 pm (Lifetime)
In Lifetime's reality series, five overweight female friends vow to shed pounds so they can look good at an upcoming wedding. They show up at the weigh-in and stare, in ecstatic shock, as their personal trainer enters the room. Jessie is a bodybuilder, fitness model and all-around chiseled dreamboat. He tells the group, "My philosophy as a personal trainer is: bring the body, and the mind will follow."
If Jessie continues to bring his body throughout DietTRIBE, viewers' minds will certainly follow it.
The Story of India
Monday, 8 pm (PBS)
Michael Wood's ambitious series covers several millennia of Indian history. Wood begins at the beginning - of humanity, that is - as the first people migrated to India from Africa. These early Indians believed that humans came from a golden egg laid by the king of the gods. Wood looks for their DNA traces in contemporary Indians living in the southern part of the country.
From there, he takes us all the way through the rise of modern India as, he says, "the brief heyday of the West comes to a close."
Ouch! Wood had better keep a lid on that kind of talk if he doesn't want American viewers to throw golden eggs at his head.
Homeland Security USA
Tuesday, 7 pm (ABC)
ABC's new reality series promises an unprecedented look at the folks who work for the Department of Homeland Security. Each episode goes behind the scenes as federal agents check passports, intercept drugs and prevent terrorists from entering the country.
The debut episode focuses on international entry points to the U.S. At the border crossing in Blaine, Wash., guards find a shocking surprise in a baby diaper.
It won't be too shocking to parents with young kids, of course, who've seen far worse things in a diaper.